About Beowulf Ecqtheowsson of the Götar
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This article is about the epic poem. For the character, see Beowulf (hero). For other uses, see Beowulf (disambiguation).
Beowulf Cotton MS Vitellius A XV f. 132r.jpg First page of Beowulf in Cotton Vitellius A. xv
Full title Unknown
Language West Saxon dialect of Old English
Date c. 700–1000 (date of poem), c. 975–1025 (date of manuscript)
State of existence Manuscript suffered damage from fire in 1731
Manuscript(s) Cotton Vitellius A. xv
First printed edition Thorkelin (1815)
Genre epic heroic poetry
Verse form Alliterative verse
Length c. 3182 lines
Subject The battles of Beowulf, the Geatish hero, in youth and old age
Personages Beowulf, Hygelac, Hrothgar, Wealhtheow, Hrothulf, Æschere, Unferth, Grendel, Grendel's mother, Wiglaf, Hildeburh.
Beowulf (/ˈbeɪ.ɵwʊlf/; in Old English [ˈbeːo̯ˌwulf]) is an Old English epic poem consisting of 3182 alliterative long lines. It is possibly the oldest surviving long poem in Old English and is commonly cited as one of the most important works of Old English literature. It was written in England some time between the 8th and the early 11th century. The author was an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet, referred to by scholars as the "Beowulf poet".
The poem is set in Scandinavia. Beowulf, a hero of the Geats, comes to the aid of Hroðgar, the king of the Danes, whose mead hall in Heorot has been under attack by a monster known as Grendel. After Beowulf slays him, Grendel's mother attacks the hall and is then also defeated. Victorious, Beowulf goes home to Geatland (Götaland in modern Sweden) and later becomes king of the Geats. After a period of fifty years has passed, Beowulf defeats a dragon, but is fatally wounded in the battle. After his death, his attendants bury him in a tumulus, a burial mound, in Geatland.
The full poem survives in the manuscript known as the Nowell Codex, located in the British Library. It has no title in the original manuscript, but has become known by the name of the story's protagonist. In 1731, the manuscript was badly damaged by a fire that swept through Ashburnham House in London that had a collection of medieval manuscripts assembled by Sir Robert Bruce Cotton.